A plot and visuals in teaching

Image Comics artists overwhelmed the comics world with large pin up shots, near eventless stories and lots and lots of dynamic pictures. Plot and content died, killed on visual glory. In the aftermath editors and writers crawled out of their of their devasted hovels and attacked back. Now superhero comics, which once centered on adventure have moved into philosophical discussions of who’s undies is all uptight.

So why writing a Flash class am I thinking about pictures?

Becasue teaching is about getting ideas across, spreading information to a student clearly.

A tangle of words, can easily lose an idea. In a step by step visual demo you walk through how to do something. The student sees visually what is happenning.

In a verbal description you can wander off to many points and in the complexity of teaching programming it takes three little conditionals and lines of code to make a simple idea work. A master teacher can create projects that simplify the idea without the conditionals and then develop the project to need the conditionals so the student sees the whole process.

In teaching how you lay out the material is the plot. What path you carve through it allows the students to either learn it or forget it. Teaching you look for themes and jokes to repeat and focus the student on ideas that you want them to apply and soak in. But you need visuals to anchor the ideas.

If you have splashy visuals (a done Flash file that performs some cool action) the students gasp and go wow. If you just talk they go un huh sure whatever. But to make it work well you need to balance the flashy visual with the plot with the storytelling pictures that fill in the space.

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The Evil Zuda, Using it to think about webcomics

It’s funny DC Comics was when I worked for them an extremely Catholic place, if you did not follow the rules of the current Pope and his bishops you were banished to the nether regions of hell. Watching from that hell it’s fun watching DC enter into the blogosphere and low and behold the Comics Blogosphere turned out to be an extremely Catholic place that blames many of the evils of DC all on the evils of Adobe Flash.

One group of close minded priests picking at another group of close minded priests, the blogosphere as close minded as the editors of DC, sad. For me it’s just interesting to see people try and do comics on the web in different ways and not settle for single screens as the only craft model.

When you draw comics on a page you are constructing a facscimile of how the page will be viewed and layering it on your desktop is like a book, on screen we get the screen, my screen never changes never flips and I can’t take it to the toilet with me.

So how do you frame the drawings in context of the screen, how do the drawings load into that space and let you see the story, place one to play at is the timeline, why do you use time to structure your whole story and not your individual pages?

No matter how you construct it a web page is about time not about space, if your have a stream going through one place it is time, wheras the book is taking up space , the simple answer is you ignore time and construct small units that work as indivisual screens, individual screens allow you tomake your unit and go from there building slowly as the thing works

So elements of a web comic would involve single screens with multiple panels or not balanced against a use of the timeline to introduce panels in a context , there is a pattern in there somewhere.

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Breaking a Task into Small Steps

Creating steps for a project is a way of making it manageable from the beginning, so that you can look at small parts without worrying and being overwhelmed by the whole. so often schools and bosses just hand you a jo, big massive and overwhelming.
In my Flash class the students can treat the story project in small little pieces, so they can succed at it. When I first gave the assignment in the main class they always floundered as it left them with lot’s of jumps and huge steps obvious to me as a old fart, but not to them.

Creating a visual display of the Flash structure that they can handle andmake real for themselves is an effective learning tool as  they can see the code on the index cards, then see it work on the timeline. I need more stuff like that!

The challenge for me is to use those steps in my daily work. What the steps do is allow me to break work into fifteen minute chunks since so often I onlyhave fifteen here and there and if I know what the fifteen minute chunk is I can do any project I want.

ActionScript steps that I am working on.

  1. The Creative Brief
  2. A Content list
  3. Project Requirements
  4. Use Case Visualization, Storyboards meets Use case, by aligning the storyboard with a textual description of what the system and the user is doing it allows complexity in the design to be revealed
  5. Psuedo UML , essentially flow charts combined with diagrams of the actions their program will have to take.
  6. Psuedo-Code, English language descriptions of what their code is going to do.

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